Tamerlane: I wasn’t clear. Sorry. You are correct that 1870 was when the West began to become “civilized”. Cattle drives were, after all, commerce; and they would not have been possible had the U.S. government not undertaken their program of genocide against the native population. The fact that people were able to engage in such commerce in relative safety would indicate that the West was being tamed.
What I meant was that the “Wild West” most people are familiar with from Hollywood was the cattle drive era. Yes, there was the Gold Rush (many people did not come overland, BTW – they arrived by ship) and the trappers. But at that time the “West” – Texas, Missouri, the Oklahoma Territory, etc. was pretty much unsettled.
You mentioned that the TC Railroad was completed in 1869. Close enough to 1870. Indeed, the railroad was one of the reasons there were cattle drives. Ranchers in Texas could drive their cattle north to Abilene or Dodge and load them onto trains for processing in Chicago.
Most of the Hollywood Westerns take place between 1873 and 1881. So the “Wild West” that people think of, as opposed to the “Frontier West”, was during this era. When people talk about the “Wild West”, they’re generally talking about Dodge City, Matt Dillon, Bonanza, Rio Bravo – the 1870s. The shootout at the OK Corral took place in 1881.
So you’re right that 1870 was when civilization really started to take hold, but that’s also pretty close to the start of the “Wild West”. After all, you can’t give someone 10 minutes to get out of town when there isn’t a town.